Madarsa education brings hawks on either side together
Cops hunt for don’s lady links
Car clue to bid on scientist
Ansari aide
Leaders’ murders shake CPM
Pranab fires madarsa salvo at Buddha
BDR jawans clash with farmers
River ravage in Diamond Harbour
Waqf board to hike girls’ hostel fees
Freedom from cage of care

Calcutta, Feb. 12: 
He is a Sangh parivar old-timer and used to be an important member of the BJP’s legal cell. The other leads the largest assembly of praying Muslims every year on Red Road. Another is one of the seniormost leaders of an organisation that makes no bones about being exclusively Muslim.

A smallish gathering in the city on Sunday was witness to an unusual meeting when the three, along with a few other prominent citizens, came together to discuss an issue that has generated a lot of heat recently.

For over two hours on Sunday, Maulana Fazlur Rahman — for the uninitiated he leads the Red Road prayers every Id — and Jamait-e-Islami Hind Calcutta district chief organiser and All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Musawarat state secretary Abdul Aziz shared a platform with Dipankar Mukherjee, an RSS old-timer known in Calcutta High Court circles as the man who fights the BJP’s legal battles, to share their thoughts on the system of education being followed by the state’s unaffiliated madarsas.

The Centre for Peace and Progress, which brought the diverse camps together, is now planning to bring together their ideas in the form of a draft resolution. “The draft is being prepared by Aziz and eminent journalist Sunanda K. Datta Ray and will be released shortly,” Centre for Peace and Progress chairman O.P. Shah said.

Mukherjee, on his part, did not say much about madarsas or their syllabi. “He, instead, focussed on the inability of Indian Muslims to have names which sounded more Arabic,” a prominent citizen who attended the meet said. “He blamed Indian Muslims, arguing that Indonesian Muslims still have Sanskritised names like Sukarnoputri and even a section of Bangladeshi Muslims do not think twice before adopting ‘Hindu’-sounding names,” he added.

The contention was nullified by Datta Ray. “I told him that Bangladeshi Muslims, living in a Muslim-majority country, could feel confident about being both a Bengali and a Muslim at the same time,” Datta Ray told The Telegraph today. But Indian Muslims, swamped by a Hindu majority, could not be blamed for having names that bore the identity of their religion, he added.

Other who spoke at the meeting were Justice Shamsuddin Ahmed and Maulana Ainul Bari. Both said targeting madarsas for exporting terror was wrong.

“Though an agreement could not be reached on many issues, the very fact that we could sit together with a Hindutva ideologue and talk with him has given us a lot of hope,” a senior Jamait leader said. The meet could serve as an “ice-breaker” for future meetings between hawks of both communities, he added.


Calcutta, Feb. 12: 
They got the don. Now police are out to bust a network of women who have been operating on behalf of Aftab Ansari and helped him extend his criminal run in India.

A senior Delhi police crime branch officer associated with the probe said they have learnt of several models and dancers who were handpicked by Ansari and taken to Dubai for training before being deployed in various Indian cities.

“From extracting information about prospective businessmen, to smuggling drugs and weapons throughout the country, these women were used by Ansari very effectively,” the officer, who interrogated the deported mastermind yesterday, told The Telegraph.

For more details on the “women’s brigade”, a Delhi police team has taken Ansari’s associate, Anita Das, to the capital for questioning. Das was arrested late last year after sleuths came across evidence that she provided back-up support to Swati Pal in the days leading up to the abduction of Khadim’s owner Parthapratim Roy Burman. “We believe Anita can help us dig out several facts about Ansari’s network,” said the official.

With Ansari refusing to answer specific questions on his gang’s network or the role played in the American Center attack by the Lashkar-e-Toiba, investigators are depending on operatives like Anita or Raju Sharma, who was deported from Dubai along with the don.

“Most of these women were used by Ansari for a variety of purposes and are all well-trained in subversive activities,” Special IG (CID) V.V. Thambi said. He confirmed that Anita has been taken to Delhi. “They (Delhi police) have cases against her there and they hope to find out more from her about the gang.”

Following the trail, the police have come across names of several women who are part of Ansari’s network. Calcutta police are particularly interested in a woman called Kavita. “She has been described by intelligence agencies as computer-savvy, smart, suave and one who is fluent in English and Hindi. She was sent to Calcutta for helping Ansari’s crack team in the city and also to bail them out in times of crisis,” a senior Calcutta police officer associated with the probe said.

Kavita, a singer from Calcutta, was picked up from a Mumbai hotel by Ansari and taken to Dubai, where militants trained her. “According to the information available, she is somewhere in Calcutta. Efforts are on to dig out further details,” the officer added.

The police are also verifying information that she regularly met Mohammad Idris, Jamaluddin Nasir and Zahid in the Tiljala house before the American Center attack.

According to intelligence agency reports available with the police, the women were used by Ansari to smuggle firearms and drugs. They also frequently changed names and used disguises to throw off the police, an official said. “They use plenty of names. It also helped the gang as the chances of getting away scot-free is definitely high,” Thambi added.


Patna, Feb. 12: 
Investigations into the car seized from City Chowk here revved up with Bihar police trying to verify the names of its owners and Central sleuths claiming that it was used in an assassination bid on missile scientist Abdul Kalam.

Bihar police have written to Calcutta’s motor vehicles department to find out if the papers found inside the car, believed to have been used by suspects in the American Center attack case, were fake. A team is expected to travel to the city soon to verify the names of the owners. Police sources said they hoped to identify Dubai-based don Aftab Ansari’s links in Patna by tracing the car’s ownership chain.

The Intelligence Bureau has decided to dismantle the car part by part to find out if explosives or other weapons were hidden in the car. Suspects arrested in connection with the January 22 raid in Calcutta have confessed that they never carried any weapon. The arms were always hidden inside the car.

A team of Jharkhand police is expected to examine the car this evening before it is taken apart, sources said. Several senior Bihar police officers visited City Chowk, where the blue Maruti 800 has been kept, after the car’s importance in the most crucial investigation in the country at the moment became clear. Home secretary U.N. Panjiyar, too, spoke to IB officials about the car’s link to the American Center suspects.

Central sleuths added a twist to investigations into Ansari’s activities in India by claiming that the car was used by Jamaluddin Nasir, a key Ansari associate and prime facilitator of the Calcutta attack, to make an attempt on the life of Abdul Kalam, the father of India’s missile programme and former scientific advisor to the Prime Minister.

The gang failed in its mission because they could not breach the security ring around the scientist. Nasir reportedly admitted to the intelligence officers that they also did not have any long-range weapon needed to ambush his convoy.

Kalam had visited Jharkhand and Bihar in June and September last year, and during one of his trips to Jharkhand, his aircraft had crashlanded near Bokaro, giving rise to speculation about sabotage. Intelligence officers believe the gang began to concentrate on their Calcutta mission after their plot to kill Kalam failed.

The Maruti 800 — WB02J 9240 — was recovered on December 18 after it met with an accident near Ranipur More here. The car had hit a motorcycle, and on being chased by locals, the three motorists abandoned the car at the chowk and disappeared.

Initially, Central intelligence officers failed to make any headway with the vehicle. But the Hazaribagh shootout, in which two suspected Ansari aides were killed, reportedly threw up some leads to the persons who used the car.


Ahmedabad, Feb. 12: 
Rajendra Anadkat alias Raju Sharma, who is being interrogated by Rajkot police for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Bhaskar Parekh and Paresh Shah, might be brought to Ahmedabad for questioning in connection with the murder of Jayanti Soma Patel.

Anadkat, an aide of Aftab Ansari, had gained notoriety in 1997 for kidnapping exporter Gautam Adani, and is suspected of having a hand in the attempt to kidnap Vishal Exports chairman Pradeep Mehta last year, in league with Dubai-based Fazlur Rehaman. Police also suspect his involvement in the extortion calls made to Nirma Industries chairman-cum-managing director Karsan Patel, made during the same period.

Anadkat and six others, including Fazlur Rehaman, were declared wanted on February 17, 2001, for attempting to kill C. Somabhai Tea proprietor Jayanti Soma Patel. Two persons fired three rounds at the company’s office in Ellisbridge. According to an FIR registered at Ellisbridge police station on September 7, 2000, Patel was receiving extortion call and threats to his life.

Preliminary investigations revealed the Fazlur Rehaman gang’s hand in the extortion calls. Initially, the police had no clue that Anadkat was acting as a financier. He was in the city when the extortion calls were made, according to crime branch sources. But the police failed to nab him and he left for Dubai.


Calcutta, Feb. 12: 
Two local CPM leaders were killed by miscreants in separate incidents in Ranibandh in Bankura and Jamboni in Paschim Midnapore last night.

The Jamboni murder was committed by alleged Jharkhand Party supporters, according to police. Three Jharkhand Party supporters named in the FIR have been arrested in connection with the murder, police said.

The Ranibandh killing is the handiwork of suspected PWG activists, said police sources.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas condemned the killings and called for popular resistance to violent politics. He said CPM workers will observe a protest day tomorrow in Bankura.

Alimuddin Street mandarins have sought a report from the Bankura district unit on the incident. Senior leaders have also been asked to visit the village.

In Bankura, a group of PWG activists surrounded the house of Ramapada Majhi, 50, secretary of the Rudra local committee under Ranibandh police station around 9.30 pm yesterday, the police said.

Majhi and his wife were asleep in their house in Bethuala village when the miscreants started banging on the door. Some of them climbed on to the tiled roof and fired into the house.

District superintendent of police Basudeb Bag said another group broke open the door and dragged Majhi and his wife out. Majhi was taken to the adjacent jungle and hacked to death with a pickaxe. His wife was also injured when she rushed to help.

CPM leaders at Bankura party office said, though Majhi had cried out for help, locals did not venture out of their houses in fear.

As soon as the news of the killing spread early this morning, local CPM leaders from the nearby Khatra party office and Bankura town, including state minister Upen Kisku and district CPM secretary Amiya Patra, rushed to the spot.

In Jamboni, Bharatlal Mondal, 55, school teacher and former pradhan of Kapgari gram panchayat, was returning home to Kapgari in the afternoon from his school in Barashol. Near Shangramchak village, armed Jharkhand Party supporters stopped him by blocking the road with felled trees.

The masked miscreants then surrounded his motorcycle and shot him. Two bullets hit his right ear and he was killed on the spot. After Mondal slumped to the ground, the miscreants fled into the nearby jungle.

The district committee leader in charge of party affairs in Jamboni, Dahareswar Sen, said Jharkhand Party supporters had unleashed a “reign of terror” on CPM activists in an organised manner to consolidate their base in the area.

Since December 29, 2001, four CPM workers were killed by Jharkhand Party activists in the Jamboni area, Sen alleged. He also criticised the local police for its inability to firmly deal with the Jharkhand activists.

Paschim Midnapore superintendent of police K.C. Meena said those arrested for Mondal’s murder have been identified as Tushar Suin, Bhudeb Mahato and Asit Mahato. He said Tushar is a local Jharkhand leader, while others are party workers.

According to Meena, the wife of the deceased lodged an FIR in which she had named 26 persons. “We have definite information that all those named in the FIR are directly or indirectly linked with the Jharkhand Party,” he added.

“We have deployed a large contingent of police in Jamboni to arrest the remaining 23 FIR-named persons,” he said.

District intelligence sources said said the district administration is working on a blueprint for tackling the Jharkhand activists. They said forces from the neighbouring districts may be requisitioned to handle the law and order situation in the Jamboni forest area.

In view of the recent spurt in activities by the PWG in Midnapore and Bankura districts, police authorities in Hooghly have strengthened its round-the-clock surveillance in the areas of the district bordering Bankura, Midnapore and Burdwan.

SP (Hooghly) Ramesh Babu said said today security arrangements in 21 special police camps in Arambagh subdivision have been beefed up and the policemen asked to check the vehicles at night.

“We are mobilising our forces on how to firmly tackle the PWG activists who have infiltrated the district,” he said.

Arambagh, Goghat, and Khanakul areas in Hooghly district had been strongholds of the PWG until a massive crackdown by the police there following Chhota Angaria incident in Garbeta. Babu says the PWG factor upset the law and order situation in Arambagh, Goghat, Khanakul area for years.


Malda, Feb. 12: 
State Congress president Pranab Mukherjee today opposed chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s move to revise the madarsa curriculum, saying neither the state government nor the Centre “can interfere with the fundamental rights of a minority community”.

Addressing a district Congress workers’ convention at the indoor stadium here, Mukherjee criticised the chief minister for creating “an unnecessary controversy over madarsas”.

“Now he has initiated a move to modernise madarsa education. However, our Constitution has given certain fundamental rights to the minority community to safeguard their culture,” the Congress working committee member said.

“Neither a state nor the Centre can have any say in the matter. Only those who have been running the madarsas can decide whether any change is needed in their education system,” Mukherjee said.

The Congress leader said no “outsider” can modify the madarsa curriculum. “I am surprised that Bhattacharjee, who has been a minister for the past 19 years, could make this announcement,” Mukherjee said.

“Being a communist chief minister, he has handed over a real issue to the BJP. Now the issue is being debated all over the country. The CPM is talking about provocation and mal-propaganda,” he pointed out.

“But who is responsible for this situation? The Congress and other parties have nothing to do with it. The Marxists themselves are to blame for this,” the Congress leader observed.

The state Congress president urged party workers to maintain communal harmony in the wake of the madarsa controversy. “We must not allow any untoward incident to take place under any circumstance and should safeguard communal amity at all costs. The basic fabric of our society is secularism. We must keep away from castiest and communal politics,” he asserted.

Recounting the party’s relationship with the Trinamul Congress before the Assembly polls last year, Mukherjee said, “The main reason for our decision to ally with Trinamul Congress was to wean Mamata Banerjee away from the BJP. We succeeded in preventing the BJP from winning a single seat in the Assembly elections, but could not stall Mamata’s return to the NDA.”

However, neither Mukherjee nor veteran Congress leader and MP A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury criticised the Trinamul chief at today’s convention.

Mukherjee also came down heavily on the BJP-led NDA government for its economic reforms. “It is true that we initiated a policy of liberalisation in 1991. But we never talked about closure of industries, privatisation of banks and retrenchment of government employees,” Mukherjee said.

“Today national income has reached an all-time low. Interest is being progressively reduced in small savings where people of low-income groups have invested their money. We would have increased the interest rates had we been in power. Our party is totally opposed to the BJP’s present economic policy,” the Congress leader observed.


Behrampore, Feb. 12: 
Two farmers and a jawan of the Bangladesh Rifles were injured when villagers clashed with three BDR men who had strayed about 2 km into Indian territory this morning in the Raninagar police station area.

The injured BDR jawan was handed over to the Border Security Force along with three rifles. His two colleagues, however, managed to flee.

Superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said the three jawans crossed over into Indian territory and had an altercation with villagers engaged in cultivation. A clash ensued in which two farmers, Zakir Hussain and Faizur Rahman, were stabbed with bayonets by the BDR jawans.

Infuriated farmers then gathered in large numbers and chased the BDR men. One of the jawans was caught and beaten up while two managed to escape. The villagers seized three service rifles and handed them over to the BSF. The injured jawan has been identified as Andrew Sangma.

A flag meeting was held late in the evening, following which the jawan was handed over to Bangladeshi authorities. The seized rifles were also returned. Consultations are on with BDR officers to diffuse the tension.

Prabhat Singh Tomar, commandant of the 26th BSF battalion, said the situation could have spun out of control if they had not intervened in time.

“We feel that an across-the-table discussion is necessary on a regular basis for sorting out border-related problems,” the BSF officer said.

Villagers allege that BDR men often stray into Indian territory and harass them on one pretext or the other. “We are victims of attacks by BDR men but the authorities are turning a blind eye to the problem,” complained a resident of Raninagar village.

Warrant against OC

Behrampore court chief judicial magistrate Anindita Rai Saraswati today issued an arrest warrant against officer-in-charge of Kandi police station for contempt of court.

The police official, Manas Maity, had twice failed to appear before the court.

The magistrate had asked him to attend court in connection with a case of Hariharpara police station where the officer was a sub-inspector in 1999. Maity had allegedly tortured a person by implicating him in a false case.

Heroin Seized: Acting on a tip off, police officials from Bhagabangola police station in Murshidabad yesterday arrested two persons and seized 500 gms of Heroin at the Rambag crossing.

The two arrested-- Ashoke Sil and Mosharaf Hossain-- later admitted to the police that pouches of heroin were smuggled into Bangladesh via Lalgola and Bhagabangola.


Diamond Harbour, Feb. 12: 
The development of fresh breaches on the Hooghly embankment near Diamond Harbour may also affect other subdivisions, fear officials of the South 24-Parganas district administration.

“We have decided to carry out extensive repair work on the damaged embankment on a war footing,” said South 24-Parganas zilla parishad sabhadipati Sova Dutta. The matter, she said, has already been discussed with the officials of the irrigation department.

The original 4-km long embankment on the Hooghly was constructed during the British period. But with no thorough repair having been carried out so far, about 50,000 people live in fear.

Villagers of Kulpi, Harinarayanpur, Mukundapur and Harran in Diamond Harbour said an area of 2 km near Puratan Qilla has already been washed away. District administration sources said big breaches have developed near the government-run tourist lodge, Sagarika.

Moreover, the heavy pressure of vehicles on the road adjacent to the embankment is also causing concern as the road was built during the British period to cater to much less traffic. The highway is the only road link between Kakdwip-Namkhana and Bishnupur-Baruipur-Garia via Sagar Island. At least 15,000 vehicles ply on this road everyday, including local and express buses, trucks, taxis, rickshaws and autorickshaws.

“I am in touch in with the irrigation and PWD departments so that the problem can be solved before it takes a serious turn,” said district magistrate Alapan Bandyopadhyay.

Diamond Harbour municipality chairman Asit Bose said a proposal had been made to build an alternative road from Kapterhat, which would meet Kakdwip Road from Lalbati–Ratneswarpur of Kalinagar village. “We have heard much about the road and hope that, after it comes up, the fear of being inundated goes away,” said Bose.

Earlier, local CPM MLA and former state law minister Abdul Mollah had taken up a project to build a 9-km road from Bunarhat to Hatuganj. Rs 5 crore was sanctioned for the project, but the work was stalled midway.

“If that work can be completed, Diamond Harbour can be saved. But nobody can say why that work stopped midway. Initially, the work was allotted to the PWD but later the zilla parishad took up the work. However, progress was very slow,” said local Trinamul Congress worker Dibakar Naskar.

“We are aware of this problem. A survey is being conducted on how the area can be saved from the ravages of the river. We will take up the work as soon as we get the report,” said Manoranjan Diyasi, in charge of the irrigation department in the zilla parishad.

However, zilla parishad chief engineer Utpal Prava Sarwasti said: “Already we have got a fresh scheme for the road from Bunarhat to Hatuganj, work on which was stopped midway. After the road is completed, we expect the problem to be tackled.”

“The matter has been discussed for a long time. Now we are trying to expedite it as early as possible because mere discussions will bring no result,” said local CPM MLA Hrishi Haldar.


Calcutta, Feb. 12: 
The state Waqf Board has decided to increase admission fees for girls’ hostels from the academic session beginning in April, unable to bear the spiralling maintenance charges of the hostels across Bengal.

Admission and other charges are being enhanced after 10 years, board officials said today. The board has seven girls’ hostels, where over 500 students stay.

According to the new charges, a student will pay Rs 500 per month for admission to the hostels and Rs 80 and Rs 30 for maintenance and rent. A boarder now pays Rs 100 for admission and Rs 50 and Rs 10 for maintenance and rent.

“We are forced to take such an unpleasant decision because of the rising cost of maintenance in Muslim girls’ hostels,” said Waqf Board chief executive officer Nazrul Islam Mollah. The members clinched the issue at a marathon meeting yesterday in the presence of board chairman and CPM MP Hannan Mollah.

The proposed fee hike has infuriated nearly 170 students lodged in the Muslim girls’ hostel on Dilkhusa Street near Park Circus. They said a delegation of boarders will submit to minority affairs minister Mohammad Selim a memorandum enlisting “our grievances”. They said the hiked charges would put hostel accommodation out of reach of the poor.


Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
Alipore zoo’s lone woman keeper, Rakiba Bibi, will be retiring in May after serving as gardener for nearly three decades. Rakiba, now approaching 60, came to Calcutta with her husband, Mohammad Amir, from Motihari, in Bihar. Amir was then employed as zoo keeper.

Recollecting the chain of events that landed her the present job, she said: “Almost 30 years ago, I was offered the job after my husband was mauled by a Royal Bengal tiger of the zoo.”

Rakiba recalls: “It was a wintry morning. I was in the quarters with my son, Raju, when I was informed that Amir had been attacked by the tiger he was trying to feed. I rushed to the spot. Amir lay in a pool of blood. He died within minutes of being admitted in a hospital.”

Amir’s untimely death left Rakiba stranded with Raju. Moreover, she had no relatives in the city, who could help out. “At that time, then zoo director R.K. Lahiri offered me a job, saving me from a crisis.” She was asked to maintain the garden.

Posted at the children’s section, Rakiba has been rearing birds and deer. She was also entrusted with the additional task of feeding the young animals.

After retirement, Rakiba says she will return to her village and spend time with her grandchildren. “Actually, nothing will change. Back home, my job will be to rear my grandchildren and foster their education,” she added.

Rakiba regrets that her 30-year association with the zoo will soon end. “ It is as if I am leaving behind my children, whom I had brought up over the years.”

Apart from the animals, Rakiba says she will miss her colleagues and the zoo authorities, who were always cordial to her and helped her get along in life after she lost her husband. “I will miss everything connected with the zoo,” she said.


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